(Captain’s Ready Room)
Egan Manno: And where they wanted to go?
::Alora drew in a long breath and then breathed out slowly. Finally she lifted her hands, palms up.::
DeVeau: I know part of their story. From what I understand, that’s what they do, go from species to species. They replicate and inhabit. When the energy from the life form they inhabit is drained, they go on to the next one. I couldn’t get the _whole_ story, but from what I gleaned, the protomatter was a temporary solution. It was keeping them alive, but wasn’t going to do so for much longer - I’m not sure why. When we came along, they had already begun to die, so they literally leapt at the chance to cheat death. Only, they weren’t able to get the ‘heart’ onboard. That’s why when you exploded that shuttlecraft, it was effective.
::It was strange how she was able to explain this all so matter of factly. Although she was in counselling, Alora knew she wasn’t over it - not by a long shot. Maybe it was because she was in ‘report’ mode.::
Egan Manno: I see.
:: She wanted to stop right there, send Alora out again, grieve for these dead creatures. She had sworn to herself, when she took command, that there would be no unnecessary death on her mission, either among her crew or the varied and wonderful beings they would deal with. But that hadn’t happened here. She could argue with herself, the same arguments she imagined another friendly officer -- Msafiri, Quinn, even Alora -- would have raised. They were invading, killing. What other choice? It was necessary. ::
Egan Manno: Tell me more about them. Who they were. What they were. What were the Kindred?
DeVeau: I don’t know what more to tell you. They didn’t have a body and yet they had a heart which had been left behind in the protomatter.
Egan Manno: So there was no central “body” -- but there was? I don’t understand.
:: She was hesitant to make Alora clarify, but the Alora Cassie had met in her quarters after the ordeal, the one who had barely been able to move, was quite different from this version. This Alora seemed quite detached from what had happened -- and, Cassie realized, that was probably true. Alora was going through the motions, reporting what needed to be reported. ::
::For a moment, Alora literally wriggled in her seat, not out of discomfort, but simply out of a struggle to put into words what she had sensed and felt more than could truly describe. There weren’t any real words to quantify what the Kindred had been, and to try and create them seemed an impossible task.::
DeVeau: I mean...it wasn’t a _physical_ body. More of...the heart of their essence.
Egan Manno: Then they were, essentially, noncorporeal?
::Wasn’t that what she had said? Had Alora left that out? Although the conversation had not taken long, what she had told her captain was beginning to muddle with the thoughts that ran rampant through her mind.::
Egan Manno: Are there more of them? Or -- another part of them? Out there, somewhere?
DeVeau: I don’t think so. From what I could determine, they were the last of their kind, clinging to life by a thread til we came.
::Which meant they were now gone and Alora had mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, they were a living entity and all life was precious. On the other hand, they had vowed to take over the ship and consume those who were not compatible. Had that occurred, then the Kindred’s life or lives would have come at the cost of others’. ::
DeVeau: Do you have any other questions, Captain?
:: Cassie considered the young woman across from her. There was one more question she wanted to ask, but she wasn’t sure how to ask it. Her mind settled in a moment upon what it thought was the right way, but she stressed each word carefully to avoid making it sound ingracious or flippant. ::
Egan Manno: One more: What about the Garuda’s chief of science? How has this experience affected her?
::The Captain had turned the conversation more personal which suddenly changed the entire atmosphere. Before, she could detach herself because of the more scientific and exploratory nature of the questions. Once it was directed on her, what she had gone through and how she felt, that detachment began to crumble.::
::She what? What was she going to say to the Captain? If she said something _too_ revealing, she might get sent to a rehabilitation facility. At the same time, she didn’t particularly care to lie.
DeVeau: I’m...coping as best I can. I just want to get back to normal.
::Whether or not she’d actually reach that goal, however, was yet to be seen.::
:: Cassie’s nod was short. Not dismissive, but in recognition that not everything had an immediate solution. ::
Egan Manno: I understand. Thank you for the report. ::beat:: Unless there’s anything more?
::Alora shook her head, rose, then began to turn, but paused.::
DeVeau: Actually...I’d like to request a return to full duty.
:: Cassie lowered her head slightly, giving her an oblique view of the woman who sat across her desk. ::
Egan Manno: That’s -- a tricky request.
DeVeau: I know what the doctors and Raissa have said, but...I almost feel like going back to a normal routine would help.
Egan Manno: ::softly:: I know that it must be. But this is a matter of your mental health, and I can’t overrule injunctions put in place by medical personnel. Nor, in this case, would I.
::Alora’s jaw tightened. That was not the answer she wanted to hear, but she could only argue so much with the captain. Although she’d asked, she’d been denied and she just had to deal with.::
DeVeau: Yes ma’am. Then, I’ve nothing else. Thank you.
::With that, Alora turned and swept from the room. While the part of the conversation that had focused on her had been short, the wall that she’d built up in preparation for the interview was no longer standing. Saltwater stung her eyes as she hurried through the corridors and back to her quarters.::
Captain Cassandra Egan Manno
Lt. Alora DeVeau
Chief of Science